One thing I love to do is to learn new words. One very clever way to do this is to do crossword puzzles (I allow myself one per week, otherwise I get a wee bit obsessed. I heart NYT Sunday puzzles). Another way? Dictionary.com sends out a word each day via email; it is an awesome tool for learning words that are new to you, or perhaps a throw-back to your high school vocab days. Today’s word? Kakistocracy – A government by the worst persons.
This word could very well have me off on a tangent rant, rambling about horrible governments and leaders who so shouldn’t be. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll focus on the family instead. Is it true that the people in charge (i.e. parents) should be the governing bodies of a family? What gives them this authority? It isn’t as though we have to pass an intelligence or capability exam before we become parents, right? Do parents REALLY know what is best? Let’s look at the big picture here: sometimes, it’s best to involve the little people in that decision-making process, right? We have to eventually teach them how to best do this, right? So, at what age should one involve kids in the decision-making process?
As much as it is admittedly easier to simply dictate what will be the next action, we can’t not teach our kids how to weigh factors and consider potential outcomes if we don’t let them practice. Sure, this complete task would be too complicated for a 4-year-old, but certainly, even at that age, they should be starting to get some of the basic skills down. Or at least pieces of the whole. From choosing one’s activities after school, to which outfit they should wear, kids should be involved in the process. They need to understand the impact that their decision might have on themselves (“If I choose to wear a tutu to school in February, I am probably going to end up being a little cold at recess.”) and on others (“If I run around in the store, I might run into someone else and make them spill their shopping basket.”). These simple decisions are where it begins; development of decision-making skills is an important part of becoming an independent thinker and learning how to be a contributing part of the community. Understanding one’s importance in the decision-making process and how one person can bring an effect on others is an eye-opening process. This process includes not just developing an identity of self, but also an understanding of community and what one’s role in that community is, not just as an individual but also as a part of a whole. One wearing a tutu clearly doesn’t impact an entire community, but as a child ages, they should start taking part in greater, more public decisions that relate to services, policies or processes that affect a group of persons and not just themselves.
This all sounds well and good, I am sure. Big words, but what does it mean to you and to your child? What is the take-home message here, right? Let me ask you this: when you think about your household, what decisions are your kids involved with? Some topic areas where they could (should) be involved: where and how they play (with a group, or alone, physically active or not); what experiences they will engage with (what interest areas to pursue); physical care (clearly, this would be as they get older); and whether they do things independently or with help. Choices should be given either by you or decided together. Two things to remember: some things are clearly not an option (e.g. walking across the street without a big person), and never give an option you are not comfortable with. Other than that, you are the one that knows your child(ren) best and you are the one that knows what they are capable of, probably even more so than they know themselves. So let them test the boundaries. Let them take part. Give them veto power on some biggies. Let them know that what they have to say is important, and of value, and that you want to listen. Don’t run a kakistocracy. Be fair because as your kids see you being that way, they will learn to act that way themselves.